Honeycombs is a light pattern-matching game that will have 1-8 players constructing honeycomb structures using delightfully tactile tiles in one of three game modes. Players (or bees?) draw tiles and work to match symbols together creating connections as quickly as possible to beat your rivals in the high-speed competitive mode, carefully choose connections to score big points in a slower-paced competitive mode, or simply look pretty in the chilled-out cooperative puzzle mode.
I found Honeycombs to be a great way to start or end a game night, with a range of modes to suit all groups and a lovely means to introduce younger players to some important gaming concepts. Honeycombs also utilises tiles that are perhaps some of the most satisfying and tactile components I have ever come across - more on that later!
Setup & Components
Setting up Honeycombs is straightforward and super quick. Players first select a game mode: 1) “Worker Bee”, a competitive mode for 2-4 players or 2-4 teams of two, where players compete to match shapes and build a honeycomb as fast as possible with a limited number of tiles, 2) “One Big Honeycomb”, where players work together to create one large honeycomb whilst carefully maximising an individual point score, and 3) “Honeycombs Puzzle”, where players cooperate to simply match symbols and create either the most aesthetically pleasing or the highest scoring honeycomb possible. After a mode is selected, all that’s required is to pop open the drawstring bag and pull out the 52 hexagon tiles and divide them up according to the game mode.
Before I comment on the gameplay in Honeycombs, we need to talk about these tiles. The tiles are made from an almost ceramic-type material that gives each tile a really satisfying weight. They’re smooth and tactile, and you cannot help but twiddle them and click them and feel them in your hands. During my group’s first game of the “One Big Honeycomb” mode, the silence of contemplating our moves was amusingly permeated by every single one of us quietly clacking our personal selection of tiles together. The symbology on these tiles is very clear and the different symbols and their effects are nicely explained in a very concise but clear rulesheet. Setup is near-enough instant, and the drawstring bag nicely holds all the tiles in a pleasant package making Honeycombs very transportable and easy to throw into a bag ready for holidays.
The basic gameplay in Honeycombs involves players drawing tiles and assembling large structures by matching symbols with adjacent tiles. However, Honeycombs plays quite differently depending on which mode you choose. The fast-paced “Worker Bee” involves players racing to match all of their tiles into a honeycomb structure as fast as possible. This is good fun but tends to be a manic race devoid of strategy. There are rules that ensure you are actually preparing honeycombs (part- or complete hexagonal structures) as opposed to a long strings of tiles but, regardless, these games are often over so quickly that you lose some of the satisfaction of creating the nicely thought-out patterns present in the other modes. “Worker Bee” is a good laugh though, and kids tend to thrive in the mayhem and love yelling “Honeycombs!” to signal that they’ve used up all their tiles.
My group found much more satisfaction in “One Big Honeycomb” where players get a hand of three tiles and take turns to lay one down and add it to a single shared honeycomb, scoring points on the number of connections made before drawing back up to three tiles until there are none left. A point is scored for each matched symbol and if you manage to match symbols on all six sides of the tile then an extra five points are awarded. Some of the symbols are special e.g. giving double points, an opportunity to immediately take another turn, wild symbols or forcing another player to skip a turn. These special tiles are where some strategy can arise - for example playing your double points tile now or waiting until an opportunity to match a tile on all six sides comes about - but this is all very approachable and even younger players who just want to match symbols can still score big points if luck is on their side. Interaction between players is fairly light in this mode of Honeycombs and mainly arises from getting in the way of other people’s plans, but there is enough satisfaction and light strategy from carefully choosing tiles to make this a very enjoyable game to come back over multiple plays, and especially when setup is so quick.
Players will need to keep track of their scores as the game progresses but there is no in-built way to do this e.g. a scoring sheet or tracker, so one player will inevitably have a more stressful game as they must count up points as you go and it’s easy to make mistakes. This is a pain, but I suppose to include such a score tracker would have detracted from the overall simplicity of the Honeycombs package; to start a game takes literally a few seconds of setup, making Honeycombs a great way to start or end a game night.
The final mode is “Honeycombs Puzzle”, where players simply work together to build a honeycomb from all of the tiles, perhaps going for the highest possible score or just the one that looks the prettiest. This is a very chilled mode that is great for younger and older players alike who just want to play with the lovely tiles and make something beautiful, and the relaxed ruleset lends itself to conversation and interaction. Honeycombs Puzzle is a nice way to spend 20 minutes with a cup of tea, but players looking for more strategy will no doubt look to the other modes.
Honeycombs is a super light tile-laying, symbol-matching puzzle game that has something for every type of boardgamer. Whether you want a frenetic race to the finish, a more strategic slow-paced competition, or a relaxing pattern matching experience, Honeycombs can cater for every need. Players looking for a brain-burning puzzle will need to look elsewhere - Honeycombs is fairly light on strategy and has a healthy dose of luck to its competitive modes - but the game is a great way to start or end your game night and very much suitable for all ages. My only major annoyance was that there is no in-built way to keep score in the competitive modes but that’s easily solved with a pen and paper. The game comes in an attractive drawstring bag that is really handy for travel and often ends up living on my coffee table for whenever the urge strikes to build a honeycomb since setup is instant. Seriously, I will take any excuse to play with those tiles! I recommend Honeycombs to all gaming groups looking for a light, satisfying way to spend 20-30 minutes.